A 6 year Olympic Journey of Medal Hunts and Creating NEST : From IRS to Scouting Young Athletes For Glory
Author : Maneesh Bahuguna
Date first published : October 2018
Co-Founder CEO Anglian Medal Hunt Company (AMHC)
Co-Founder & Managing Trustee Nurturing Excellence for Sports Trust (NEST)
I have always been a passionate follower of India’s story at the Olympic Games and this led to the conceptualizing of Anglian Medal Hunt after I took voluntary retirement from the Indian Revenue Services. A passion for the sport, the plight of the athletes and a desire to see them excel at the highest platforms of sporting excellence have been the real motivators for me.
The idea behind Anglian Medal Hunt Company is precisely to ensure that right talent is identified early and supported in every which way so that the athletes have access to facilities that are at par with the best in the world. This kind of unconditional support would go a long way in developing the necessary physical and mental conditioning required to perform under pressure at international events.
It was certainly a long-term concept and did require some bold thinking and back in 2012 the popularity of Olympics wasn’t that high and the return on investment for the investors wasn’t based on any known numbers, a very few people saw potential in this space. Sunny Narang truly believed in the concept and shared the same passion. He has been rock solid in his support throughout this journey.
We started with 3 athletes in January 2013 and the number rose to 50 in 2016. Out of the athletes supported by us, 14 were able to win individual medals in the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games, bringing glory to our country and six of our athletes represented the country at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
On the sponsorship front, our first association was with TYKA, followed by United Colors of Benetton. It was difficult to get brands on board as many of them were not looking beyond cricket. At the same time, the transition from government to private sector was extremely challenging for me initially due to the different working environments between commercially-driven organizations and public sector institutions. Over the course of time, we have worked with brands like ONGC, GAIL (India) Limited, Adani Enterprises, Reliance Foundation, Coca-Cola India, Welspun Foundation, Pepsi to name a few.
While AMHC was now growing steadily, I wanted to create a meaningful impact by helping athletes from marginalized background with their training. It was Sunny’s idea to incorporate a trust and hence we started Nurturing Excellence in Sports Trust in 2013 and the inclusion of sports as a CSR activity under Schedule VII of the Companies Act in 2014 helped us in realizing the dream.
We started identifying athletes as young as 11 years old and at that time while other organizations were working with the elite athletes, I personally believed that the right approach would be to identify the athletes young and nurture them. We provide these athletes with the same facilities that an elite athlete would get and also focus on sports science and nutrition. Another critical area is to prepare the athletes, not only physically but also mentally for a championship, I sensed a gap there when I witnessed some best of the best athletes struggling with mental block.
We managed to get associated with like-minded organizations and started various grassroots talent scouting initiatives. One such initiative is Indian Speedstar, supported by GAIL (India) Limited. Indian Speedstar is one of the biggest talent scouting initiatives in athletics. The program has covered 300+ districts across 29 states and has seen more than 3 lacs children participating. Eminent sports personalities like PT Usha, Sriram Singh showed their support by becoming members of the Indian Speedstar selection committee. 25 athletes have been identified and are undergoing extensive training for the last 2 years. These athletes also got a chance to train n Kingston, Jamaica under Coach Glen Mills who has been coached stalwarts like Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
Building AMHC and NEST has been grueling, exciting, inspiring and exhausting but remembering why I started keeps me centered. Currently my eyes are set on the training of young athletes for the upcoming major international events including the 2020 and 2024 Olympics and create a high performing sports environment.